Pentagon to lift ban on transgender troops in May

Pentagon to lift ban on transgender troops in May
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The Pentagon will end a ban on transgender troops on May 27, according to a draft memo obtained by USA Today. 

Defense Secretary Ash Carter first announced in July that the Department intended to lift the ban and created a working group to study the implications over six months. 

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In the meantime, troops could serve as openly transgender, and high-level approval is needed to discharge troops for being transgender. 

Repealing the ban would affect more than 12,000 troops.

The memo, dated Aug. 19, also highlights some of the potential issues arising with transgender troops, such as providing leaves of absence to allow them to undergo hormone therapy or surgery. 

Other issues include medical treatment, housing, uniforms, physical fitness standards and whether transgender troops undergoing treatment are eligible for deployment to war zones. 

A defense official told USA Today that Army and Air Force leaders know of about 20 transgender troops in both services. 

The Pentagon is also considering revisiting the discharge status of transgender troops who have been kicked out of the service. The Pentagon does not track those numbers.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine by the Palm Center released earlier this month estimated that it would cost the military $5.6 million per year to treat transgender troops. 

The report concluded the amount would be “too low to warrant consideration in the current policy debate."

Dr. Aaron Belkin, founding director of the Palm Center, said that amounts to 22 cents per transgender service member per month.

“Though my utilization and cost estimates are quite close to actual data provided by an allied military force ... the cost amounts to little more than a rounding error in the military's $47.8 billion annual health care budget,” he said in his report.